Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 08.03.2006

Giant project to determine climatic variation in Europe over 1000 years

European scientists are studying to find out what were the magnitude and rate of climatic variations in Europe over the past 1000 years. The essential aim is to find out whether the climate during the last 100 years is different from the one during the last 1000 years and if it is, what are the differences? This is the first time that the European climate has been studied over a time span of 1000 years.

The project was started at the beginning of this year and it is the top EU initiative in the field of climate change research. The total investment in the project granted by the EU is 12.6 million euros. Thirty-nine universities or research institutes from 16 European countries are participating in this four-year project. The participating institutions from Finland are the Rovaniemi research unit of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, the University of Helsinki and the University of Oulu .

A reliable retrospective reconstruction of past climae is modelled after collecting climate data from several “natural archives” (proxies), such as sediment layers in lakes and seas, calcareous shells of molluscs, glaciers, peat layers in mires, and annual rings and height growth of trees. Data is also compiled from written sources, such as sea log books, old climate measurements and other historical sources like chronicles. Climatic data must be collected from as many sources as possible from different parts of Europe in order to guarantee reliable results.

Senior Researcher Risto Jalkanen from the Finnish Forest Research Institute is the person responsible for data collection from the tree proxies in Metla’s Laanila research area, north of Saariselkä, and for the creation of time series from this material.

– The work in Laanila is important for the sake of the entire European climate research, because earlier studies have shown that trees in this area retain an extremely strong climate signal. Therefore these trees can be used to reconstruct past climate temperature and precipitation conditions. Another thing that makes Laanila such an excellent location is the fact that we can easily reconstruct the climate that prevailed 1100 years ago, Jalkanen enthusiastically promotes the Metla research area located near the timber line.

From the same trees in Laanila, ten different time series are collected to reconstruct past climate. Proxy parameters such as latewood density and the stable isotopes are measured from the tree rings. In his research, Senior Researcher Risto Jalkanen uses the Needle Trace Method (NTM) of his own design. The time series produced through the NTM can be used to reconstruct not only climate conditions but also disturbance dynamics of the forest.

The study period was chosen to be specifically the most recent 1000 years, because it includes more fluctuation than any other time period since the last Ice Age. Due to the 1000-year period being studied, the project’s name is Millennium.

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